Oktoberfest is coming… I see more and more lederhosen and dirndls in the streets.
Tonight I went downtown to go to Compline (night prayer) with the Benedictines at St Bonifaz Abbey. (I love St Boniface, but unfortunately this church and abbey, bombed in WWII, was only partially restored, and the rest is primitive/industrial-style stuff from the 50s-70s. Nevertheless, St Boniface + Benedictines makes me happy.) I always lose my sense of direction, coming up from the U-Bahn or S-Bahn, so I walked north for a block when I should have walked south, and made myself late. But they chanted beautifully and I listened (in German). Plainchant is its own language. It could have been in Latin or German or English or anything else, and still be the voice of prayer. At the end, I could join in, singing the Salve Regina (in Latin).
Waiting in the station afterwards, an elderly German lady struck up a conversation with me (in English, after I explained that I only understand ein bisschen Deutsche). She was really kind and asked me all about what I’m doing here and how my German is progressing. A group of giddy, singing young guys walked by through the station (Americans, by the color of their socks) and she winked at me and said, “Ah, Oktoberfest is here.”
Then on my way back on the U-Bahn I heard a few voices speaking American English and felt a little tingle of delight. Americans! I really haven’t felt culture shock problems at all so far, and I like the sound of German. But even after just two weeks of only hearing English spoken by non-native speakers, my own voice is starting to sound weird. (And I hear myself about to say things like, “I like better the tomatoes,” because only J. (Papa)’s English is practiced enough to avoid that kind of thing.)
Anyway, I heard English speakers (and American accents, too – much homier sounding than the British lady’s voice who announces the next stop). Then on the last leg of my route, on the S-Bahn, I heard LOUD Americans. Loud, confused, young Americans. This must be Oktoberfest! A girl and her friend had lost their other friend, and of course ONLY this other friend knew the way to the campground. Luckily, next to her was another American guy, who tried to ask where she was going, but she didn’t know – and she thought she should ride the train all the way to the end (because her friend said, “Get on the S-2 going to Petershausen” – meaning in that direction). They hashed this out for a while and then a girl with a British accent jumped in and said she was going to the same campground – but the confused girl wasn’t sure it was the same one, despite the fact that there are only two and one is downtown. She pointed out the stop that they should get off at to catch the right bus. Confused girl started counting off the stops instead of trying to memorize the name (even if you can’t say it, remember what it looks like), and I joined in then to show her that the screen on the top of the bus showed the names of the stops. THEN, finally, another young Oktoberfester from the English-speaking world, an Australian guy, jumped in and showed her the name of the campground (where he was going) and the travel group they were both with and finally the girl seemed assured, so they followed him off the train.
It was kind of awkward (her voice was so loud! Germans are quiet as the dead in public transit) but mostly funny, and the two older German ladies sitting across from her kept chuckling about it after she left. Then the first guy, the American one, showed them all his newly purchased Bavarian clothing (lederhosen, the white shirt, the knee socks) and the women laughed and were very impressed – and I ended up finding out he was originally from the Corvallis area (Oregon), on a three-month tour of Europe.
As for me, on Sunday I’m going to see the “Costume und Riflemen’s Procession” on Sunday morning…